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Virtual show better than no show

Views of Andean condors with 10-foot wingspans flying through the Jackson County Expo’s Olsrud Arena have been a staple of the Jackson County Sportsmen’s and Outdoor Recreation Show for well over a decade.

But instead of finding a seat in the bleachers, condor-lovers and other outdoor enthusiasts will be watching on the Internet as the annual outdoor show becomes the latest in a long line of gatherings that have gone online due to COVID-19.

The internet show will be offered free, saving viewers the normal $6 entry fee. The show will run Feb. 26 through March 4 at exposureshows.com.

Spending an evening scrolling through the show’s virtual lineup could be quite lucrative for someone. For viewers who register, ExpoSure is offering a grand prize of either one of two trips of a lifetime.

One is a four-day Mexico fishing adventure out of LaPaz, valued at $3,000. The other is an Alaksa fishing adventure, with a five-day, six-night, self-guided fishing trip for two valued at $7,400.

Both offer round-trip flights, all transportation, lodging, food and processing and freezing of the fish winners choose to take home.

There are also several other prizes, ranging from a one-day guided fishing trip for chinook salmon on the Rogue River to a new Polaris ATV and a case of specially canned tuna.

After two decades of rolling into town with his show before heading to Northern California, show creator Joe Pate realized early on during the pandemic that a show that routinely drew 13,000 people to The Expo over three days was not likely an option in early 2021.

Pate turned to the internet as a way to deliver the outdoors experience, including the virtual shopping with vendors who are the cornerstone of most outdoor shows.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Pate says.

The show has a virtual magazine feel to it, with visitors clicking their way through pages of advertisements, vendors and attractions.

Interested in a new boat? Click here. A fall bear hunt? Click there. Watch a how-to on surfperch fishing, click over here.

Some of them are live and participants can sign up for them, even asking questions. Others are taped and available at the site.

The site includes reams of information on boats, powersports, guides and outfitters ranging from Diamond Lake Resort to African safaris. Several government agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management have pages in the virtual show.

Others include lifestyle products ranging from clothing to heating pads.

The annual head-and-horns contest will be offered online this year. Other show stalwarts like the kid fishing pond, big fish tank and the archery range for kids are present in spirit only, but will return in 2022.

Ironically, as outdoor shows nationwide shutter over COVID-19 restrictions, outdoor activities and purchases of outdoor equipment are on the rise across the board during the pandemic.

Pate says the virtual approach is more of a stop-gap than a long-term answer.

“It’s supposed to be a supplement to the show,” Pate says. “You can’t replace a live show.”

But a virtual show is better than no show at all, and he hopes his Southern Oregon faithful will agree.

“It was the right decision to make,” Pate says. “Let’s see what the visitors say.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

An Andean condor spreads its wings while flying to his trainer, Joe Krathwohl, at the Jackson County Expo in 2014.Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch